Hurricane Could Make a Mess of RNC

Hurricane Isaac could hit Tampa head-on, or just rain on GOP's parade.

ByABC News
August 22, 2012, 11:48 AM

Aug. 22, 2012 -- Hurricane Isaac, currently a tropical storm brewing southeast of Puerto Rico, is on track to hit Florida the same day that Mitt Romney and 50,000 Republican delegates, journalists, protestors and guests descend on Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

While it is too early to accurately predict the storm's path, ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said it will hit southern Florida. Whether it will skim the east coast near Miami or crash head-on into Tampa, is still up in the air.

"Any way you take it, it's going to be a wind and rain event in Tampa," Golembo said. "We don't know if it's going to be damaging to Tampa, cancelling the convention or just delaying it."

As of this morning, the worst possible scenario is that Hurricane Isaac stays on the western track, skating over the Caribbean Sea south of Haiti, crossing the primarily flat landscape of western Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico then curving east and hitting Tampa dead-on.

"Tampa is just as vulnerable as New Orleans was in the sense that the water will funnel into the bay area and from the storm surge which will flood completely the whole entire city of Tampa," Golembo said referring to Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005.

"It would be a disaster in the Tampa area," Golembo said.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn downplayed any serious threat to the convention.

"Come on down," Buckhorn said. "The event is going to take place, it's going to be a great event and we're looking forward to having you."

He said Isaac was still 2,500 miles off the Florida coast and "is not an imminent threat."

While most prediction models show the storm taking a more eastern track, Golembo said one "very important model," one the meteorologists use "a lot," has Isaac slamming directly into Tampa.

"That's why the meteorologists are pulling their hair out right now," Golembo said. "If it was a model we wouldn't care, but it's THE model."

Buckhorn said "at this point we don't lose a lot of sleep over" the possible storm because Floridians are "accustomed to these types of storms."

"We haven't been hit by a hurricane in 90 years, but that doesn't mean we let our guard down," Buckhorn said. "We've got plans in place that we practice all year round. We've got plans on top of plans. The only thing the RNC does is add about 50,000 more people to the equation."

The Republican National Convention has been working with local, state and federal authorities for more than a year to create contingency plans in the event this worst case scenario came true. RNC spokesman James Davis told ABC News that convention planners are "monitoring the storm" and "will make sure everyone's health and safety is protected."

"We will release information as we get it. Right now we are looking forward to having a great convention," Davis said. "We are confident we will be able to get the business done of our convention which is to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."

Davis would not say when or if the convention would be called off, rescheduled or moved.

Under the best case scenario, the storm could smash into the mountains of Haiti which "would really kill the system," then the weakened storm could sweep over the Bahamas and swirl off the east coast of Florida, bringing strong winds and rain to Miami, but missing Tampa, Golembo said.

In that scenario, Tampa would see 30 mph winds and about 1 inch of rainfall, Golembo said.

The weatherman said, "I don't think they would have to cancel anything."

"Pack an umbrella at least and maybe a poncho and galoshes, but don't quite break out the boats and don't start building the arc," Golembo said.